A full page ad appeared in six major American newspapers (The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, and USA Today) announcing that the fast food chain Taco Bell has purchased the Liberty Bell. The full text of the ad reads:
“Taco Bell Buys the Liberty Bell: In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures. It will now be called the “Taco Liberty Bell” and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.”
In a separate press release, Taco Bell explained that the Liberty Bell would divide its time between Philadelphia and the Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, CA. It compared the purchase to the adoption of highways by corporations. Taco Bell argued that it was simply “going one step further by purchasing one of the country’s greatest historic treasures.” The company boasted, “Taco Bell’s heritage and imagery have revolved around the symbolism of the bell. Now we’ve got the crown jewel of bells.”
There is also some irony to the Taco Liberty Bell controversy when one considers that much of the popular history of the Bell is more myth than reality. Modern scholars consider its iconic status a creation of mid-nineteenth century writers who invented the tale that the Bell was rung to announce that the Declaration of Independence had been approved. In reality, the steeple of the Philadelphia state house was in disrepair in 1776, so it is doubtful that the Bell (which later came to be known as the Liberty Bell) was rung at all to signal the signing of the Declaration (source).